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Teaching Your High Schooler Problem Solving Skills

Supporting your High Schooler with Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving has gone by the wayside with recent generations. It's such an important life skill though. As a parent, I want to make life easier for my children, but that doesn’t teach them the skills they need to be successful in life. How can we, as parents, make our kids the most successful. Problem solving is certainly one aspect to this. What are the steps to problem solving?

1. Define the Problem

2. Brainstorms Solutions

3. Pick a Solution

4. Test the Solution

5. Review the Results

What are different ways to incorporate this into everyday life? Move the responsibility back onto our children! One of the biggest advantages of sending your child to a small college preparatory high school like St. Joseph Academy is that we will hold our students accountable. They need this at home as well. If they are having a problem we need to step through the steps of probleming solving with them.

Define the problem: This might be a hard step for our students. What is the problem they are experiencing? Maybe it's too much homework and not enough time to do it, a tough teacher that doesn’t understand them, not excelling at their sport, friends making bad decisions. There are so many different things that affect teens, the list really could be endless! The first step is defining the number one problem you are going to work at solving.

Brainstorming: OK this is fun, but it also will take some warming up to do. Human nature tells us how to solve problems, and we may be stuck on that one solution. We have to push our kids to come up with more than one solution. Let's take the homework problem as an example. Kids are busy, they have sports practice, church, youth group, spending time with friends and families, work obligations, clubs and volunteer work. Many things fill their schedules outside of the 7 hours they are at school. To come home and spend another several hours on homework seems like a big problem. So what are the solutions? Scaling back on obligations, learning some better time management skills, prioritizing homework before the extra curricular activities, and more. It’s important to come up with a handful of solutions, most of them from your child, but you can add one or two in there to get the ball rolling. If they come up with the solution, they will own it.

Pick a Solution and give it a try: Now it's time to pick the most appealing solution, with the caveat that if it doesn’t work we will try a different solution.

Now that we have gone through the steps of problem solving, what are ways you can foster this at home? Ask a lot of open ended questions so your child has to really think, revisit old problems and step through the sequence for practice. Focus on the process of problem solving over the actual problem. This process really helps students develop a growth mindset which will help them succeed. Model problem solving, put this into practice for your own problems and let your kids learn from you!

I’d love to hear how you practice problem solving with your kids.